You want to buy a nice piece of jewelry, but you are unsure what karat value you should be buying. Let’s consider a few factors which will help you determine which suits your purpose best.
What Are Karats, Anyway?
The term karat is a measure of purity. Pure gold is 24k, so all other gold, be it 10k, 14k or higher has other metals mixed with it. The result is an alloy which is much more durable than the pure gold, which will be easily bent or damaged and cannot be used for most jewelry.
Please don’t confuse karat and carat, by the way. A carat is a measure of weight of a gemstone. So you might have a 1-carat diamond on a 14k gold mounting, for example. The diamond weighs one carat, and the gold has 14 parts of gold and 10 parts of other metals, adding up to 24k.
Gold, as we have mentioned above, must be mixed with other metals in order to have durability. Usually, the other metals are a combination of copper, nickel, zinc and sometimes a few others. The resulting alloy is a hard metal that can withstand most bumps and dings. 14k is a good choice, therefore, for most everyday jewelry. The amount of gold in a 14K piece is calculated by dividing 14 by 24 (14 parts pure gold divided by the maximum amount of gold possible, or 24). That calculation yields .5834, or 58.34% pure gold.
The Jewelry Is Stamped with the Karat Value
When examining jewelry, look for the stamp, which often is 14K or 14k. Sometimes the stamp may be numerical, such as 583, denoting the parts of gold per thousand.
Should You Buy Higher Karat Values?
Much fine jewelry is made using higher karat values, such as 18-karat, 20-karat and even 22k. The differences can be found in the color and the durability, as well as the price. Some people prefer the brighter gold hue of higher karat jewelry. This value tends to be offset by practicality, however, because jewelry with more gold in it is subject to greater wear and damage than the harder 14k pieces.
If you’re allergic to nickel, the higher karat pieces will have proportionally less of the metal, and you may be safe to wear them without getting a rash.
What About 10K Gold?
10K jewelry is even more durable than 14K, and it also contains more nickel, so allergy might be a consideration. Some people like the brighter gold cast on the 14k, however. Also, if you need to think about the price (who doesn’t?) the 10K will be the least expensive piece of jewelry, all else being equal. And of course, 10K is the most durable.
Overall, 14K Is a Reasonable Choice
14K will give you very good durability and a nice gold color. It’s still very affordable, and should certainly be your choice if you are planning to wear the piece daily, or even very often.
Higher karat pieces may safely be chosen for occasional wear, however.
The end choice is yours to make. Now you have a few facts to weigh your decision by.